Production Value or Plot?

Hollywood is well known for all the amazing effects and production value, but is that really all that makes the movies? So many of the directors in Hollywood are known for their incredible effects such as Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, and Steven Spielberg. Many Hollywood films are even recognizable solely because of the production choices and visual effects.

It may seem like American cinematography is dominating the competition because of production value, but other film industries around the world also use some of the same effects. A good example of this is the Lord of the Rings series where motion capture was used for some characters as well as other groundbreaking visual effects. Although Lord of the Rings is a fairly popular series there are plenty of other foreign film industries using these same techniques to give their audiences the same ‘wow’ factor.

Since it seems that the use of these film technologies are so successful it could be inferred that this is the most sure-fire way to make a “good” film, but is it really the only way to create an awe-inspiring film? I think to answer this question it is important to look at all the foreign film industries such as Bollywood which focus more heavily on plot than special effects and action. These movies do incredibly well and are well-received by all audiences despite the lack of special effects.

It may seem like a large budget is needed to create some of the Oscar nominated and winning films, but constantly this theory is being proved wrong by many foreign film industries that create successful and beautiful films just by focusing on plot and classic cinematography skills. Exposing yourself to new films from around the world can open your eyes to a whole new world of amazing production regardless of the amount of explosions and lens flares. Sometimes it’s the simple films that really win over your heart anyway.

Neither method of creating films is wrong, and neither is inherently better than the other. I think a mixture of both makes for an amazing film, but it’s all up for personal interpretation. There’s no right or wrong way to create art, after all.

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“Connection” in Movies.

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”

A simple phrase on its own, but knowing the connection behind it makes all the difference. The phrase “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” is widely considered to be one of the most emotionally resonant quotes in cinematic history. Because it relies on the emotional relationship between the central characters of the film and the arc they endured together. They had a “connection.”

Connection is a difficult word to describe when it comes to the topic of movies. Because its all about relationships the characters have with one another. Connection in a weird sense is all about the individual…in the beginning at least.

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Connection is a basic storytelling device that is seen in almost all films. It is heavily used in the 1986 Disney Film The Fox and The Hound. 

It can be illustrated perhaps more simply in the 1986 Walt Disney film The Fox and the Hound. The movie’s main characters are a red fox and a hunting dog. The films tagline reads “the story of two friends who didn’t know they were supposed to be enemies”. They meet, form a connection before societal roles can apply to them, there forced into those antagonistic roles in adulthood…you get the picture.

There connection is strained, and almost completely severed. However, there’s a pivotal scene in the movie that proves the friendship between the two is real. A single look of anguish and honesty that brings the old feelings of amity rushing back.

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In this key moment of The Fox and The Hound, Tod is distraught to see his former best friend Copper about to be killed by a savage black bear. Despite the venomous falling out the two had, the connection of friendship the two strong is strong enough for him to overcome his anger. 

Connection between characters is what makes films so strong. Solid relationships and characterizations can carry a film’s plot to new heights. Connection makes good movies great, and solid stories exceptional. If you can write characters with real connections, you can do anything.

 

 

Everyone’s Talking About the Oscars!

“Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.”

– How John Negron Begins Every “Snarcasm” Blog Pst

I gotta admit, that’s a pretty clever way to begin a sub-genre of posts on your blog. John Negron’s “Snarcasms” are witty posts that make, as you would probably guess, sarcastic and snarky remarks about articles and ideas from various artists and authors. The particular “Snarcasm” we’re discussing today is “Let’s Talk About How the Oscars Don’t Matter (Again)”.

In a humorous light, Negron analyzes sentence by sentence another article by Joanna Connors titled “Oscars 2016: Why the Academy Awards Matter, and Why They Don’t”. Connors discusses the cultural relevance of the Oscars, the concept of ranking, and how the Academy is just a bunch of old white men that don’t even watch the films they’re voting. It’s these generalized concepts that Connors writes about that Negron criticizes.

The ultimate conclusion of Negron’s work is that while the Oscars aren’t flawless, it’s a large ceremony that honors the best films of the year as selected by some the most talented, hand picked individuals in the field of cinema. Just because they may not matter to one individual doesn’t mean that they have no importance to another.

It’s 2016, and it’s no secret the Oscars has been losing viewership and popularity over the past several years. This years show brought a new layer of tension with the underrepresentation of black actors in the leading actors categories. As Chris Rock fantastically called the show in his opening speech, “the white people’s choice awards.” The Oscars are going through troubled waters right now, but Negron is cautiously optimistic in his opinion that the Academy can change, and will change with time.

After all, movies are a reflection of culture and ideals. How can we expect the Oscars to change, if we can’t change first?

 

 

Blurring The Lines: The Case for Motion Capture in the Oscars

Gollum. The character that started in all.

Portrayed by English actor, Andy Serkis, Gollum was the first character in film history to have been portrayed by motion capture performance. Andy Serkis, decked out in a full body suit, provided the voice, facial expressions and the movements for the Gollum character. His work was met with critical acclaim. With the advent of motion capture becoming increasingly prevalent in films, there has been a call for the Academy to recognize motion capture in the Oscars. Some call for action, others aren’t even sure where the character creation even begins.

You can take for example, the incredibly dismissive words of Amid Amidi, as the man takes credit away from the actors who are providing the emotional template for the character performances, and instead says it is the starving artists who are creating these rich characters we see on screen. The animators are vital, undeniably so. The work wouldn’t exist without them, but is it fair to write the actor out completely?

Serkis himself isn’t wholly in the right either. In this interesting little interview by Meredith Woener for io9, Serkis says that the actors “author” there performances. Now that seems a little unfair. He doesn’t outright dismiss the animators role in character creation, but he does seem to cheapen it, even if its unintentional.

So if both sides have friction with each other, where does the Academy stand in on this? Well, thats a tricky area. No one seems to have a clean cut answer on the issue. One of the definitive voices on the debate I’ve found is Mark Mill’s stance on “No”. In the post, Mills writes

“Merriam-Webster’s definition of acting is: “the art or practice of representing a character on a stage or before cameras.” This is exactly what Serkis does. He creates a voice, expressions, mannerisms and a style of moving that allows the audience to feel they are watching say Gollum. Motion-capture performance is a sub-set of acting not an alternative to it.”

It’s a solid argument, but not enough to sate the public who want recognition for the motion capture, or as its alternatively called, performance capture. I do believe the advent of a new category, one that awards the lead animators and actor, is good enough. It’s a new form of movie acting, and character creation. It’s the perfect blend of digital effects and full body acting, “Best Digital Performance” is what it can be called.

Maybe that’s all we need.